by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Against expectations, Tomislav Pucar had finished in first place in his group in the qualification tournament, notably he beat Hong Kong’s Tang Peng, the highest rated player on preliminary phase duty.
Top spot meant a direct entry to the main draw; that was one opportunity but there was a second. Japan’s Jun Mizutani was forced to withdraw from the tournament owing to illness; the effect, in line with the regulations, was that Tomislav Pucar gained the fifth seeded position in the main.
Therefore, he faced another qualifier in the opening round; he confronted Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan. Alone no coach, as opposed some 20 or so fans supporting his adversary, the Croatian emerged successful in a hard fought seven games duel (5-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5).
“Usually, left handers like Noshad are stronger from the forehand than the backhand but he is the opposite; his forehand is quite weak, so I played much more to his forehand. Certainly his backhand is strong but his greatest strength is his service; it’s the best I’ve ever played against”, Tomislav Pucar
A chance presented, the chance was taken; for Wong Chun Ting; the chance was spurned before it was taken. The no.7 seed, after establishing a three games to one lead against Ruwen Filus, the German rallied strongly to force a decider.
In the seventh game at 9-all it was parity. Wong Chun Ting won the next point; then Ruwen Filus won the next two. On the very precipice of defeat, Wong Chun Ting responded, he won three in a row to secure a thrilling victory (11-8, 11-1, 6-11, 11-6, 10-12, 10-12, 13-11).
“It was a good first match for me; I’m not that strong against defenders, he plays at a very good level. At the start of the match, he made mistakes but then made very few errors and defended very well. Playing against him when he attacked was not too difficult but his attacking play was very different to other defenders”, Wong Chun Ting
Success and to the delight of a group of young ladies in the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena, some having travelled from foreign shores, there was success for China’s Zhang Jike, the no.4 seed. Reportedly a little under the weather, he overcame Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia (11-7, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3).
“I was really looking forward to playing at the Qatar Open this time, after missing out from competing for almost half a year. Actually before the match, I was had a fever today, I felt terrible but since I’m here already, I wanted to persevere and keep going. Regardless of the results of the match, I think it’s important to keep the spirit of the competition. Actually it was due to these fans to a large extent, that I was able to persevere and overcome my injuries to continue playing on court. They flew here from all over the world, and I hope that they will be able to watch me play more matches here”, Zhang Jike.
Success for Zhang Jike; earlier in the afternoon, it had been success for colleague Ma Long, the top seed. He overcame Chinese Taipei Liao Cheng-Ting (11-9, 11-9, 11-4, 11-3).